Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The SeaAram PournabiENG 3UW-03January 18, 2018Something to Die ForWhat can someone become if there is no guiding hand or obstacles in the way? Is it possible to shape the path of life without guidance? Who’s to say I am wrong? These are just some of the questions explored by various characters in “The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea” by Yukio Mishima.
Mishima supported existentialism as he believed that life is meaningless and practised many of the samurai’s teachings. Seeing that he wasn’t getting attention for his beliefs, he committed seppuku, an ancient japanese ritual suicide. Knowing this information it would be foolish not to consider the novel as a work of existentialist literature. Therefore, existentialism is shown through the extreme ideas of society and the free will to shape a path. In the novel the existential thoughts of Mishima are portrayed through the Chief, who believes in the power of free will and duty to oneself; and Ryuji, who feels like an outsider just trying to finally feel significant succumbing to despair.
Both characters use interactions, thoughts, and past experiences to prove the validity of their beliefs. Though it is not known why he thinks the way he does, the Chief is the first character to openly discuss and influence the other members in his gang about his existentialist ideas. When the Chief is first introduced, he disagrees with all of his members thoughts about their problems or successes they’ve been experiencing and tries to make them understand what true despair is. The gang was holding a meeting and were sharing recent things that were going on in their lives.
Number two was telling the chief that his parents weren’t letting buy an airsoft rifle because it was too dangerous but the chief wasn’t having any of it and proceeds to talk to the boys about society by saying, “There isn’t any fear in existence itself, or any uncertainty, but living creates it. And society is basically meaningless, a Roman mixed bath. And school, school is just society in miniature: That’s why we’re always being ordered around. A bunch of blind men tell us what to do, tear our unlimited ability to shreds” (Mishima 51). By looking at society from an approach of despair, he admits that society is “meaningless” as it’s restricting them from exploring their own path as they’re always being “ordered around”. Also the fact that he believes the only real danger in their lives is living illustrates the existentialist concept of fighting for life itself. Furthermore, the Chief believes with the ability of free will, it will fill the emptiness and despair inside the gang.
The chief elected Noboru to murder a cat as part of their ritual in achieving “absolute dispassion”.To encourage Noboru into performing the act, the Chief tells him that “murder would fill those gaping caves in much the same way that a crack along its face will fill a mirror. Then they would achieve real power over existence” (Mishima 57). By referring to the emptiness inside him as a gaping cave, he believes that extreme paths such as murder must be taken to get closer to overcoming their sense of despair which he refers to as achieving “real power over existence”. To add on to the idea of the Chief trying to validate himself and the others he tells the gang that “All six of us are geniuses.
And the world, as you know, is empty” (Mishima 161). Without a doubt the Chief’s character is metaphor to Mishima’s life when he was trying to voice his political beliefs and opinions on society to the general public but he only had a few people supporting him which wasn’t enough to satisfy him. But this analysis begs the question, did Mishima always have these political beliefs or did something trigger these new opinions?As Ryuji’s character develops in the novel, he begins to question if he’s achieved anything in life and if there is goal he wants to achieve. Ryuji isn’t sure where he belongs in society and expresses his disinterest in being a sailor. Earlier on in the novel, Ryuji is reminiscing about his past experiences when sailing, thinking about the tropics and he then realizes “But as the years passed, he grew indifferent to the lure of exotic lands. He found himself in a strange predicament all sailors share: essentially he belonged neither to the land nor the sea” (Mishima 16). He had followed society’s standards for his whole life but then realized what he had initially tried to pursue wasn’t satisfying him and he “grew indifferent”. By saying he belongs “neither to the land nor the sea” he’s attempting to separate himself from society and freeing himself to explore a new path of his own, acquiring a “free will”.
Correspondingly, Ryuji’s transition into an existential mindset is that he has despair for the past. Before asking Fusako to marry him, Ryuji was thinking about how he has been sailing for a long time and will almost become 34 years old. He then realizes if he wanted to marry Fusako, “It was time to abandon the dream he had cherished too long. Time to realize that no specially tailored glory was waiting for him” (Mishima 110). Ryuji realizes that in order to start a new path, he must understand that the decision he had made before wasn’t worth anything as there was “no specially tailored glory was waiting for him”. By understanding the goal he was trying to achieve was futile from the start, he can start on his new path knowing that there was no hope for his past life and he made the right decision by accepting that truth.
When analyzing Ryuji’s character throughout the novel, Mishima was trying to show how someone who is accustomed to society can change their views on the world if they want to forge a path of their own using their free will incorporating existential thoughts.To conclude, Mishima thoroughly uses the character’s thoughts and actions to prove that his novel is a work of existentialist literature. Both the Chief and Ryuji showed their own existential thoughts towards the challenges they were facing and emotional pressure. The philosophy of the novel can be best described through Mishima’s famous quote, “True beauty is something that attacks, overpowers, robs, and finally destroys.”